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Disney World Turns the Big 5-0

DISNEY'S 18-MONTH-LONG 50TH-ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION KICKS OFF OCTOBER 1 AT THE MOUSE'S HOUSE IN ORLANDO - AND YOU'RE INVITED

The stages are set. The characters are in costume. The rides are in motion. And, yes, despite a pandemic upending many a plan leading to the big day, the show will go on at Disney World in celebration of its golden anniversary—and it’s a party you won’t want to miss. 

Come October 1, when Disney World officially turns 50, and continuing for 18 months, The World’s Most Magical Celebration promises to wow guests with a slew of new attractions throughout Disney World’s four theme parks—the Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios—and beyond. Here’s how Disney puts on a birthday bash.

THE ULTIMATE GLOW-UP
Leave it to Disney not to let a mouse pun go to waste. All-new EARidescent décor will provide a stunning glow-up throughout the parks. In the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle will take center stage, festooned in golden embellishments and a 50th-anniversary crest.

Disney World Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Mickey and Minnie don her new EARidescent attire. Photo courtesy of Disney; by Matt Stroshane

EARidescent effects will also bring a special glimmer to Disney at night in Beacons of Magic. Think Cinderella Castle shimmering in pixie dust, the Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life illuminated with fireflies, Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Tower Hotel awash in a dramatic glow, and Epcot’s Spaceship Earth twinkling with stardust. 

Disney World Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Artist renderings show the Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom; Photo courtesy of Disney

SHOW TIME
The Magic Kingdom will debut a special nighttime spectacular, Disney Enchantment, taking Disney’s magic theme next-level with fireworks, music, lighting and projection effects that stretch from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.

Disney World Celebrates 50th Anniversary
One of the largest nighttime spectaculars ever created for a Disney park, Harmonious will light up the sky over Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon. Photo courtesy of Disney; Photo by Kent Phillips

Epcot will also unveil a new nighttime show, Harmonious, featuring a profusion of pyrotechnics, choreographed fountains, custom LED panels, floating set pieces, lighting, lasers and more over the World Showcase Lagoon. An homage to the power of music and song to unite people, Harmonious reimagines classic Disney songs in more than a dozen languages by 240 artists from around the globe.

Daytime visitors to Animal Kingdom will be entertained with new Disney KiteTails performances. Presented several times daily beginning October 1 inside the Discovery River Amphitheater, the show features artists flying windcatchers and kites along with three-dimensional kites—up to 30 feet long—depicting Disney animal friends (among them: Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie) soaring over the water as they “dance” to Disney songs.

GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY STYLE
Golden sculptures of the “Disney Fab 50” will also adorn the parks. Guests can interact “in surprising ways”—per Disney sources, who are not revealing any of those surprises—with some 50 character sculptures, including those of Goofy, Pluto, Chip ‘n’ Dale, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse and, of course, Mickey Mouse.

Disney World Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Golden sculptures of beloved characters will adorn the parks; Photo courtesy of Disney

The live Disney characters in the parks will be sporting new Disney couture. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and the gang will dress in dazzling costumes designed just for the anniversary. Multitoned pink, purple and blue EARidescent fabric, embroidered impressions of Cinderella Castle with fireworks in the backdrop, and gold accents from head—Minnie’s bow—to toe—Mickey’s and Minnie’s shoes—are some of the eye-catching fashions you’ll see your favorite characters wearing in the parks.   

THE FRENCH CONNECTION
It’s not all about the mouse during this anniversary celebration; a celebrity rat gets its 15 minutes of fame—and then some—in an expanded area of the French pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. Based on Disney and Pixar’s Academy Award-winning movie Ratatouille and set to open on October 1, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a 4D, all-ages ride experience, will have guests feeling as if they’ve shrunk to the size of Chef Remy as they scamper (via ride vehicles) through Gusteau’s Parisian restaurant filled with larger-than-life food.     

Disney World Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure; Photo courtesy of Disney; by Matt Stroshane

Along with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the expansion of the France pavilion will also see the opening of La Crêperie de Paris. Offering table-service and quick-service options, this brand-new restaurant presents a menu by celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse with everything from sweet crepes to buckwheat galettes to French hard cider.

Disney World Celebrates 50th Anniversary
La Crêperie de Paris debuts October 1 in a newly expanded area of the France pavilion in Epcot. Photo courtesy of Disney; by Matt Stroshane

Bring your appetite, your party shoes and your sense of Disney wonder, and we’ll see you at the party!

DISNEY THROUGH THE YEARS
Who would’ve imagined back in the 1960s when Walt Disney bought a huge tract of land in Central Florida through a series of incognito purchases—then known simply as the “Florida Project”—that what would follow would become among the most-visited resort destinations and most iconic brands in the world? Well, “who” except the consummate dreamer Walt Disney himself, of course. Let’s take a stroll down Disney World’s memory lane.

November 15, 1965—Walt Disney and his brother Roy hold a press conference announcing plans for the creation of Disney World.

May 30, 1967—Construction begins on Walt Disney World Resort.

October 1, 1971—Walt Disney World opens to the public, welcoming guests to Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The monorail system, with nearly three miles of track, transports guests to and from the resorts and the park as well as the Transportation and Ticket Center.

November 19, 1971—Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground debuts.

January 15, 1975—Space Mountain and the GE Carousel of Progress open in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.

March 22, 1975—Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village—now known as The Marketplace at Disney Springs—is unveiled with 28 shops and 4 restaurants.

October 1, 1979—Construction begins on EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).

October 1, 1982—EPCOT opens with five Future World pavilions and nine World Showcase pavilions.

June 28, 1988—Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa premiers as Disney’s flagship hotel.

May 1, 1989—Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then known at Disney–MGM Studios) debuts.

June 1, 1989—Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park opens.

November 1990—The EPCOT Resort Area opens the doors to four hotels: Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel and the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel.

July 22, 1994—Disney’s Hollywood Studios sees the opening of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

April 1, 1995—Disney’s second water park, Disney’s Blizzard Beach, opens.

July 1, 1996—Disney’s Boardwalk Inn & Villas and the boardwalk with its restaurants, shops and nightspots open.

April 22, 1998—Disney’s Animal Kingdom opens. With 500 acres, it is the resort’s largest park.

April 16, 2001—Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge welcomes guests.

May 5, 2005—Soarin’ debuts at EPCOT.

April 7, 2006—Expedition Everest opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

May 31, 2012—Disney offers new Family Suites for parties of up to six guests with the opening of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.

December 6, 2012—The New Fantasyland is unveiled in the Magic Kingdom.

2013—MagicBands and the My Disney Experience mobile app are rolled out.

September 29, 2015—Downtown Disney is transformed into Disney Springs after a three-year reimagining.

May 27, 2017—The new themed land of Pandora—The World of Avatar opens.

June 30, 2018—Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios premiers.

August 29, 2019—The 14-acre land Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

September 29, 2019—The Disney Skyliner gondola system is launched.

March 4, 2020—Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios welcomes guests.

October 1, 2021—Disney’s 18-month-long 50th-anniversary celebration, The World’s Most Magical Celebration, kicks off.